Throughout my years in business, I’ve made plenty of “mistakes” — although I firmly believe there are no mistakes, only learning experiences. I’ve also picked up a few tips along the way. They’ve helped me to succeed both in founding and running several successful businesses, and also in my pursuit of a meaningful life.
Get out of the waiting place
Building something bigger than yourself is the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do, but it’s lonely. There are no timelines or agendas, and often you don’t know what to do next to make your dream a reality. This is where the waiting place will find you. Waiting for samples to be returned. Waiting for developers to finish your site. Waiting for someone to do something that will move you closer to your goal.
Stop waiting! There’s always something you can do to advance your vision while other people catch up. Learn the difference between busywork and high-value work. Your time is precious, and should be spent on the work that matters most. The one thing top performers all have in common is making a habit of prioritizing high-value work, even on days they don’t feel like doing anything. When you’re an entrepreneur, there’s no shortage of work to be done. You’re the master of your own destiny and when you’re the creator, there’s no time for waiting.
Avoid a generalist mindset
As a new entrepreneur, you have to be a generalist. We wear many hats, from graphic designer and web developer to picker/packer, shipper, and even window cleaner (really!). I like to say I would never ask someone to do a job I won’t do myself, but at some point it comes time to let go of the reins and start delegating. Yes, you can box up your own inventory and mail it out, but is that really the best use of your time? Review your talents, and decide where you are the best fit for your company. Where is your time most productively spent, and where can you create the most value? Hone in on what you’re good at and maximize your skills. Stop being a generalist and develop your abilities to perform high-value work.
Join the 5 AM club
I borrowed this term from Robin Sharma’s book, and it reminds me of the advantages of waking early. As a mom with a toddler and a new baby, I have to wake up early if I want any time to myself before the day takes over. This is my special time, when I can be alone with my thoughts and plan effectively.
Each morning, I wake around 4:45 a.m. and wake up with a high-endurance activity such as Peloton or a bootcamp at the gym. Several studies have identified advantages of intense exercise first thing in the morning. It reduces cortisol levels and helps you be more creative, productive, and focused throughout the day. Exercise also boosts dopamine and serotonin levels, and kickstarts your metabolism and brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF), essential for learning and memory.
Next, I like to journal. This gives me time to reflect and prepare for the coming day. I plan little wins for the tasks ahead to keep me motivated. From there, if I have time, I read or listen to an audiobook while finishing a few chores. And I do all this before 6:30 a.m. No matter what might go wrong later in the day, I always start every morning on a positive note.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
“Growth happens at the edge of discomfort.” I firmly believe that’s true. From my personal history, I know that when things get tough, I have a tendency to self-sabotage. The closer I get to my goals, the more my fear would hold me back.
It’s human nature to want to avoid pain and seek pleasure, but developing a resilient mindset means challenging yourself and stretching your capabilities beyond their old limits. Just like muscles need to tear to grow, your mind and soul become stronger in times of adversity, difficulty, and doubt. Learning to welcome the feeling of being uncomfortable and pushing through brings immense rewards.
Follow the 1-touch rule
A good friend and successful COO taught me that reducing the number of touchpoints maximizes efficiency, not just in business but in life. What if we could apply the principles of lean manufacturing to, well, everything? The 1-touch rule is all about minimizing interactions (“touches”) with tasks before completion.
Let’s say a package is delivered to your house. Do you pick it up, bring it inside, leave it on the table and open it later, remove the contents, put them on the table, then return and put them away? Or do you open the package straight away and immediately put the contents where they belong? Finishing a task as soon as you start it reduces the touch points, and also prevents it from taking up precious space in your mind that could be used for more productive work.
I find that blocking out my time helps me stick to a 1-touch rule. Set aside an hour to read and respond to emails, rather than reading them on the go and returning to them later to respond.
Bonus — define success your way
I can’t resist sneaking in a sixth tip. Remember there’s not only one way to succeed. Each of us must find our own definition of success and decide for ourselves what that looks like. Don’t compare yourself with anyone else. You might walk different paths toward the same goal, or take the same path to different outcomes. It’s all good. The only thing you and other successful people really have in common is that you show up and work hard. I’m motivated by my favourite quote, by Estée Lauder: “I never dreamed of success. I worked for it.”